Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

The Sweet Spot: Chocolatefest celebrates 23 years of confections, connections.

January, for many, seems like a big letdown.

After the highs of the holidays, an icy landscape brings on cabin fever, and, let’s face it, who has ever heard of “summer doldrums?”

Just around the time everything seems so bleak, we are reminded that Keystone Human Service’s Chocolatefest is right around the corner. Suddenly, life begins to take on a brighter sheen, not unlike that of a good bar of chocolate, by the way.

Author and humorist Sandra Boynton once said, “Research tells us that 14 out of 10 individuals like chocolate.”

If that “statistic” brings a knowing smile to your face, imagine having access to a huge smorgasbord chock full of chocolate creations. And what better place to throw a chocolate party than in chocolate town?

This year’s extravaganza will take place on the last weekend of January at the Hershey Lodge. The annual “ChocolateBall” will kick off the event on Friday night with live music, dancing, dinner and auctions. On Saturday, guests can choose to attend the premiere reception or opt for one of two 90-minute sessions beginning at noon and continuing through the afternoon.

The theme chosen for this year’s black-tie gala is “Reach for the Stars,” a reminder that Keystone’s mission is to advocate for those with disabilities to live full, rich, meaningful lives and become valued members of their communities.

Works of Art

This year, some 60 vendors will participate. Confectioners, hoteliers and restaurateurs will offer a wide-range of samples to ensure no one’s sweet tooth goes unsatisfied, and other businesses will do their part to support a worthy cause.

“We are grateful for the partnerships that we have made in order to provide such a great community event,” said Danielle Ruddy, Keystone Human Services development specialist.

Each year, guests’ eyes pop out at the over-the-top cakes created by skilled bakers. The annual baking competition creates quite a stir as retailers, students and professional decorators show off their talents and vie for prizes awarded by a professional panel of judges.

“The cakes are amazing—real works of art,” commented Ann Moffitt, vice president of community development.

Ruddy said that this year’s event will include several new activities.

“Home Depot will be bringing along kits for kids’ workshops, and the Girl Scout STEM Mobile will be onsite where girl’s can earn their STEM Mobile patch,” she said.

The STEM Mobile lab provides students with hands-on opportunities to explore science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The Hershey Kissmobile will also make an appearance.

Speaking of kisses, a select group of four-legged friends will be in attendance with tails wagging, eager to unleash their charm on willing guests.

“We will have a Susquehanna Service Dogs kissing booth, where guests can get a kiss for a $1 and take their own picture with them,” said Ruddy.

Wineries, breweries and distilleries will join the event for the first time this year, keeping spirits bright by offering a variety of adult libations for tasting and/or purchasing.

Remarkable Job

Chocolatefest depends on the generosity of not only businesses, but also hundreds of volunteers.

Mimi and Bob Goodling have donated their time throughout the years in various ways, from buying a table at the ChocolateBall to traffic control to serving on various boards. The Mechanicsburg couple has witnessed firsthand what a blessing Keystone Human Services can be. The couple’s son has benefited from the services provided by the organization.

“Once I saw how Keystone treated these individuals and how they worked with them, I knew this was an agency I wanted to help,” said Bob, adding that he saw his son flourish after Keystone helped him transition from the state hospital into a productive and happy life. “They do a remarkable job enhancing the human spirit.”

Keystone currently serves 7,500 people and families in central Pennsylvania, even reaching other states and places as far away as India.

Ruddy considers the event a win-win for everyone—from businesses to patrons to the folks who benefit from the thousands of dollars generated to enhance our neighbors’ lives.

“Chocolatefest isn’t just about the massive amounts of desserts that can be consumed,” she said. “It’s about our community businesses coming together to support one another while providing an event that is fun and inclusive, while raising much-needed funds for our programs and services.”

Chocolatefest takes place Jan. 27 and 28 at the Hershey Lodge, Hershey. To learn more, visit or call 717-232-7509. Tickets can also be purchased at the Hershey Lodge, Hotel Hershey, Boscov’s and AMMA JO in Strawberry Square.

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